Rapid Climate Change (RAPID) was a £20 million, six-year (2001-2007) programme for the Natural Environment Research Council. The programme aimed to improve the ability to quantify the probability and magnitude of future rapid change in climate, with a main (but not exclusive) focus on the role of the Atlantic Ocean's Thermohaline Circulation.
The main aims of this proposal were to determine the role that surface forcing variability plays in causing rapid changes in the ocean circulation and to examine the effect of such changes on climate. These issues are addressed through a combined analysis of coupled model output and observational datasets. The focus of the analysis was in the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC) although the results have been interpreted in the broader context of the global climate system. Variations in the air-sea fluxes of surface heat and freshwater have the potential to cause rapid changes in the ocean circulation eg through their influence on deep convection. However, the relationship between surface forcing variability and rapid changes in the ocean remains to be properly determined; our goal was to significantly improve understanding of this area.